FIFA currently has 207 member associations, and by the end of the upcoming 57th FIFA Congress in Zurich at the end of May, we may well have 208. As the legislative arm of FIFA and now as an annual event, it is the Congress – and so by extension the member associations – that charts the path of our organization.
At the same time, our members also belong to one of the six confederations, all of whom can already look back upon years of success. In 1954, UEFA and the AFC were founded in Europe and Asia respectively, whereas the Confederation of Asian Football (CAF) celebrated its 50th anniversary by returning to its birthplace, Khartoum, in February 2007. The very first confederation, the Confederation of South American Football (CONMEBOL), marked its 90th anniversary last year, and CONCACAF first saw the light of day back in 1961. Even the newest confederation, the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC), turned 40 in 2006.
The “double membership” enjoyed by the associations means that FIFA and the confederations have to work together closely. FIFA’s cooperation with the confederations extends right up to FIFA Executive Committee level with the confederations having a free hand in the appointment of their representatives at world football’s “top table”. The very form of representations gives the confederations a considerable say in all strategic decisions affecting the governing body. It is therefore only correct that FIFA follows developments in the confederations with a keen interest, just as the confederations do within FIFA. Consultative meetings also take place on a regular basis to allow FIFA and the confederations to discuss important matters and issues of mutual interest.
According to the FIFA Statutes, the confederations have various rights and obligations. For example, they are obliged to comply with and enforce compliance with the Statutes, regulations and decisions of FIFA, and they must also work closely with FIFA in every domain, such as in restoring normality and order to associations blighted by political interference. Similarly, they are also bound to ensure that international leagues or any other such groups of clubs or leagues are not formed without their consent or the approval of FIFA. In other words, the confederations are an integral part of the football pyramid and, as such, they play an essential stabilizing role in world football.
Just as cooperation across nations and continents is taken for granted in politics and finance, football also has to think and operate on an international level. Given the increasing globalization of our sport and the problems that it brings with it, it is absolutely imperative that football shows solidarity by standing as one and speaking with just one voice.
After all, it is in the interests of our sport that the partnership between FIFA and the confederations be based on shared visions and common values. Regional or continental approaches and tactics are not enough. We need worldwide solutions and strong, efficient confederations that work not only together, but also with FIFA.